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Clients’ Confessions: Why I Hate Web Designers

Author: Carl Heaton
He is our senior instructor and originally from Manchester UK. Carl teaches our Web Design and Online Marketing Courses.
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As we work with many clients who require website redesign services, it is natural that we have heard many horror stories about their previous experiences with web designers. While some business owners are lucky to have found effective, creative and good web designers from the get-go, some others get themselves into a fix because of bad hire decisions.

Here are some confessions from clients who have hired undesirable web designers in the past. If you are a client looking for your next web designer, it’s in your best interest to avoid making the same mistakes:

1. hired my buddy’s brother-in-law because he was willing to do it for free.

If someone is working for free or on the cheap, there’s a reason for it—and that reason will be reflected in the end result, which is your website. Good web designers don’t work for free.

You don’t want it designed by someone who is learning to be a web designer or who is doing it as a hobby in their free time, especially if you are looking to create a real impact with your website and are looking for click conversions.

Lesson learned: Cheaper isn’t better.

good web designers

You get what you pay for. This is true for everything, but especially for web design. For the highest quality site, you’re going to need to pay someone. Good web designers have worked hard to develop the skills and have knowledge necessary to create a stellar product.

Will it cost more than $500 (or in the case of your buddy’s brother-in-law, a six-pack of beer and a large pizza)? Yes. But will the end result be worth it? You bet!

2. My web designer had no action plans and I ended planning most of the work.

You needed your website to be finished three weeks ago, but it isn’t—and you aren’t sure where your web designer is currently at in the process or when to expect the site launch. In fact, you’re not even sure how your website will even look like.

Maybe you even feel that you should be doing some of the work yourself to move the process along. Actually, what you really need to do is to drop this web design guy!

Lesson learned: Strategy is king.

Hiring someone to build your website is kind of like hiring someone to build your house. Good web designers will discuss and agree with the other party on a solid plan of action before the work starts.

There should be some real thought (market research and competitive analysis) put into the decisions you make. You should understand the basics of the process and have an idea of what the final outcome will be.

3. My web designers were only focused on how cool the website would look.

Sure, it looks great. It’s got a sleek and sexy design and all the latest bells and whistles. You don’t even understand half of what your designers explain that it can do, but it’s clearly a cool site.

Throughout the entire process, however, the entire web design team hasn’t discussed how your new site will engage visitors and turn them into real customers, and this worries you.

Lesson learned: A good website needs more than just looks.

Web design is more than designing a site that looks great. Make sure that from the beginning, you and your designer have recorded discussions about how your new site will grab total strangers who are simply clicking through and turn them into customers for your business or consumers of your content.

That’s the whole reason you’re building a new site in the first place, right?

4. I had a good web designer but one who hated putting things down into writing.

Contract? Psssht! We don’t need a contract! Just give me a check and I’ll get started right away…”

It seems odd that they will start work without a contract, but maybe it’s because they’re so experienced that they can practically do the work in their sleep? Well, verbal agreement isn’t going to work for web design projects!

Lesson learned: A contract or written agreement is important.

Good web designers with experience will draw up a contract that will protect both parties during the design process.

If they can even forgo a contract, this is a warning sign of their lack of professionalism. Make sure the design contract lays out exactly what the design work will include, what the cost will be, and the payment milestones that you’ve agreed to.

You need to safeguard your project with a contract, or at least an email detailing what needs to be done and the budget given. It’s a simple step now that will save lots of trouble later.

5. My designer refused to start work on my site until I paid him in full.

Good web designers utilize the usual practice to take a deposit at the beginning milestone while the remaining sum can be paid at the end of the project.

This is because web design is a process-based endeavor and paying in full at the start or at the end of the project isn’t too fair to both the parties either way.

Lesson learned: Payment terms should be fair.

If your designer wants the entire payment up front, this isn’t just a red flag; it’s an entire warning parade, complete with a big brass band and fireworks. As mentioned in #4, you should have an agreement that lays out payment milestones that are tied to work milestones as the website gets completed. Also, by paying everything upfront, you as the client are taking a bigger risk.

6. I hired a designer who vanished the day after I handed her my deposit.

Your designer must be a part-time magician because after you have hired her and paid her a deposit, she has completely disappeared.

It’s common to hear stories from some clients that they have sent the designers e-mails and tried to contact them via phone, but have gotten zero response. Now you’re down by a deposit and don’t have any work to show for it.

Lesson learned: Verify the websites on their portfolio.

When you research your designer’s portfolio, remember to visit a few of the websites they have listed there. Assuming that the sites do exist, e-mail the owners of a few of them and see what they have experienced when working with this designer. When you pay, do it via a credit card or PayPal so there is some kind of recourse if things go wrong.

7. I wasn’t happy with my web designer team’s work halfway through the site redesign project but I felt stuck to them.

“I don’t really like what they’ve done, but they know what they’re doing and I don’t. Eventually, we’ll get it right.”

You’ve paid a lot of money to have your website redone… but the results are less than stellar. You hate the website and you’re not happy with your designer, but you’ve put so much time and money into them that you feel you should keep pushing forward until you finally get the result you want.

Lesson learned: Don’t throw bad money after good money.

If you’re paying good money to have your website (which is the public representation of you, your brand, and/or your business) redesigned, you should be very happy with the end result. This is why researching for good web designers and seeking out references beforehand is so important.

In addition to this, seek out bids from multiple designers so you have comparisons.

8. I engaged a web designer who promised a lighting fast deadline but…

“Sure! Totally new website design, huh? I can have this done by… how’s seven days from now?”

You don’t know a lot about web design, but it seems like it should take more than a week to complete the job. Especially if you have a multi-product site, it’s impossible to do the creative process well through a rushed scheduled.

In fact, most clients do give web designers at least one month and beyond to design and create a new site well.

good web designers

Lesson learned: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Well, it will take more than a week to design your site. And if you hire a designer who promises unrealistic results, you probably won’t be happy with what they deliver. A well-designed site takes money… and it also takes time.

9. When my newly designed website was completed, my web designer wanted me to pay extra money for managing the site.

Be leery of a web designer who shows you your shiny new site and then refuses to show you how to use it. Some web designers keep total control over sites by disabling clients’ ability to make changes and demanding fees to do updates and additions.

Of course, you don’t want to log in and obliterate all the work you just paid to have done, but good web designers should give you a basic tutorial on how to add content and make changes to what’s already there.

Lesson learned: A good designer should not hold your site hostage.

Before you agree to go with a particular designer, discuss what will happen after the site is complete.

You need to have all pertinent information specific to your site’s design. If they start telling you that only a web designer is qualified to make changes once the design is complete, then run – don’t walk – and find a different designer!

10. When I saw my website for the first time, it looked totally different from what I had paid for.

You did your homework, found a good web designer, laid out a plan and are moving along with the process. You’re just seeing the newly designed site for the first time now and it looked different from what you have expected. In fact, it’s not what you have discussed at all.

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Lesson learned: Communication is key.

Remember how you laid out a contract when you first got started? This is when you’ll need to refer to that (as well as all of the e-mail communication regarding decisions about the design style).

The contract should be detailed enough that it spells out the exact expectations for the elements of the site. In many cases, these kinds of design problems are simple communication errors that can be resolved by simply talking to your designer regularly.

Hopefully, these tips will be enough to guide you out of any snafus you’ve encountered with what you thought were good web designers (or to help you avoid problems altogether). The best way to avoid them, however, is to simply learn how to do the design yourself by signing up for a web design course with our online school!



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